First communications satellites disappear. Then, all over the world, diamonds are stolen-including from international diamond thieves! Enormous, carbon devouring space jellyfish are the culprits-but will they stop at diamonds and coal and move on to other sources of carbon, including all life on Earth? Will Inspector Kommei (Yosuke Natsuki, who would play a cop in Toho’s other 1964 kaiju epic, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster) figure out who Mark Jackson (Robert Dunham, Godzilla Vs. Megalon) is, and can he foil the international diamond thief cartel? Will these two plot threads ever intersect in any meaningful way?
Dogora is a frustrating Kaiju film from the man who more or less invented the sub-genre, Toho Studio’s Ishiro Honda (Yog, Monster from Outer Space). On the plus side there is some pretty fine model work and a more imaginative than usual menace (carbon hungry space jellyfish), but not unlike some of the more outlandish American scientific monster menaces of the 1950s (the killer ever-growing crystals of The Monolith Monsters and the killer isotope from The Magnetic Monster come to mind) the danger posed is impersonal, confined to Dogora eating coal and diamonds in massive quantities. Towards the end Dogora commits some minor city destruction, but for the most part this is an intellectual, rather than visceral, menace, and the filmmakers try to compensate with the cops versus diamond thief cartel storyline. Unfortunately, outside of giving us Robert Dunahm’s largest (and most amusing) film role as a wily Gaijin who speaks perfect Japanese and knows karate, the diamond thief plot line doesn’t offer us anything we haven’t seen a thousand times before. The connection between the two plot lines is in the personage of super diamond scientist Dr. Munkata (Nobuo Nakamura, The War of the Gargantuas), whose diamonds are stolen early on and who helps investigate Dogora, but it is a weak connection, perhaps the weakest in Toho’s long history of Kaiju films.
Dogora’s impersonal threat, the poorly connected plots and leaps of logic that only dedicated Kaiju-fans could be expected to make combine to make Dogora the second string kaiju film it is. It’s a shame because Honda and Toho’s usual Kaiju suspects did much better elsewhere, and the monster and hero (in the personage of Mark Jackson, at least-the Japanese heroes all come from central casting) should be more memorable than they are here.
I happened to watch this a few weeks ago after not having seen it since I was a kid. Not the greatest Toho effort from the period, but I enjoy the vibe (for lack of a better word) of the B efforts from the 1960s. I also enjoyed seeing Akiko Wakabayashi, whose career wasn’t that long, as a bad girl.
I sound pretty down on it in the review, but we did have a good time with Dogora, and it’s definitely fun if you’re already into Toho kaiju movies and/or 1960s Japanese spy/gangster films. Mostly the negative review comes from disappointment that the elements didn’t come together more.